Fears of 'floodgate' of evictions in South Tyneside as ban due to be lifted on landlords

Lifting the Government eviction ban could increase the risk of homelessness in South Tyneside, although housing bosses say they will “try to avoid it at all costs.”

Saturday, 5th September 2020, 6:00 am
A housing chief fears soaring homelessness problems when the eviction ban is lifted.

The halt on evictions, which was announced in March and extended in June, aimed to provide security for tenants during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the ban was due to end last week, it was extended again by ministers until September 20 over fears thousands could lose their homes.

As the new deadline looms, South Tyneside Council housing chiefs have stressed measures are in place to support tenants – with evictions only used as a ‘last resort’.

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“Although they extended the eviction ban, it’s just kicking the ball further down the street,” said operation manager for housing strategy, Anna Milner.

“Those rent arrears still need to be addressed and landlords, ourselves included, will need those rent arrears to be addressed.

“I think a lot of private landlords are already getting quite angsty in the fact that rent arrears are racking up and they’re not able to do anything about it.”

The housing boss was speaking at People Select Committee meeting during a discussion on the council’s Hardship Fund.

Since being launched earlier this year, the government-supported scheme has seen more than 1,700 awards given to South Tyneside residents experiencing financial hardship as a result of Covid-19.

A presentation to councillors listed evictions as one of several challenges going forward, alongside the end of the furlough scheme, redundancies and a potential ‘local lockdown’ in the borough.

Housing bosses say the eviction ban currently covers both evictions related to arrears and those related to anti-social behaviour – matters which would need to be ‘seperated out’ in future.

In response to a question from Cllr Adam Ellison about the council’s expectations around “not pursing evictions” , council chiefs said prevention work is key.

This could include the payment of some rent arrears through a homelessness prevention fund or agreeing a payment plan with the landlord.

However in the private rented sector, Milner said the outcomes are more uncertain.

“I don’t expect everybody to get on board and I don’t expect all of the private landlords will say ‘yes I’m prepared to wait for my money’ – a lot of them will still want to take their tenants to court.

“Sometimes tenants have had high rent arrears prior to lockdown so again that might be an issue.

“For me it’s a major concern, we’re either going to see a drip drip feed of an increase in evictions over the next 12 months or there’s going to be a floodgate.”

She added: “They [landlords] will still have to give their tenants notice so we will still work with them during that period in terms of if there’s anything we can do, or if we can rehouse them within council stock or support them into other private rented accommodation.

“Homelessness is obviously something that we will try to avoid at all costs.”

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